Buridan, Jean

Buridan, Jean byo͝orˈĭdən, Fr. zhäN bürēdäNˈ [key], d. c.1358, French scholastic philosopher. Rector of the Univ. of Paris, he was a follower of William of Occam and a nominalist. Buridan promoted the theory of impetus, arguing that a projectile continues in motion not, as Aristotle held, because it is supported by the surrounding air, but because of the force transmitted to it by the object that launched it. Buridan's theory of the will was that choice is determined by the greater good and that the freedom a person possesses is the power to suspend choice and reconsider motives for action. Traditionally but almost certainly erroneously he is supposed to have used the simile of “Buridan's ass”—an unfortunate animal midway between two identical bundles of hay and starving to death because it cannot choose between them.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Philosophy: Biographies